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June 20, 1863: Union troops take Mount Defiance; Stuart's Prussian aide severely wounded

Jun. 20, 2013 - 02:59PM   |  
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MIDDLEBURG, VA. — Heavy rains last night doused firefights raging around this north central Virginia hamlet just a day’s ride from the U.S. capital.

Before fighting cooled, however, Federal troops were able to dislodge the vaunted Confederate cavalry from the high ground on Mount Defiance overlooking the western approach into Middleburg.

Rebel cavalry commander Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s chief of staff, the popular Prussian horseman Maj. Heros von Borcke, was severely wounded in the final melee, before the gray jackets retreated to new positions along the Ashby Gap ridgeline, near the town of Upperville.

Now recovering away from the front, Heros says he was hit by Federal sharpshooters who thought he was Stuart.

“Being dressed in the same fashion as the general — a short jacket and grey hat, with waving ostrich plume and mounted on my handsome new charger — my tall figure soon engaged their particular attention, for the bullets came humming around me like a swarm of bees,” Heros tells Military Times.

“A ball had just stripped the gold lace from my trousers, and I was saying to the general riding a few steps before me on my left — “General, those Yankees are giving it hotly to me on your account” — when I suddenly felt a severe dull blow, as though somebody had struck me with his fist on my neck. Fiery sparks glittered before my eyes and a tremendous weight seemed to be dragging me from my horse.”

His left arm hung stiff and lifeless, but he managed to help fight off a Union advance before eventually being transported by ambulance to the relative safety of a Confederate aide station.

Sources close to Federal leaders say they will continue pressing against the Confederate cavalry, which despite their setbacks have so far been successful in screening the main Confederate force now moving north into Maryland under cover of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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